The Insane Story Behind Rob Halford’s Trent Reznor-Produced Industrial Project 2wo

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Next to Ozzy Osbourne and maybe Bruce Dickinson, no front person inspires such universal reverence as Rob Halford.

The heralded voice of gold at the forefront of Judas Priest, his seemingly limitless range and impeccable manner of delivery set the benchmark for perfection and helped catapult the new wave of British heavy metal to worldwide prominence.

Halford’s penchant for hard leather aesthetics was instrumental in shaping the overall style of heavy metal, subverting traditional machismo by marrying the headbanger dress code with gay culture. Nobody exudes the kind of talent, energy, finesse, and confidence that drips from every pore of Rob Halford’s being. He is the definition of fucking awesome.

After Judas Priest’s tour supporting Painkiller, Halford took a hiatus from the band in order to pursue other musical interests. Alongside Priest drummer Scott Travis, he formed the incredible heavy metal band Fight, who released two stellar albums and an equally impressive ep before calling it quits.

Looking to broaden his horizons, a friend suggested that Halford collaborate on a project with guitarist John 5. The meeting proved fruitful and sewed the seeds of what would become their new band, Gimp. From an interview with Roger Scott in 1998, Halford had this to say about the experience:

“It was just synchronicity at work, I think. I was at the Foundation Forum a few years back and a journalist friend of mine told me about John Lowery, the guitar player. John and I got in touch. We spent a few days together in Los Angeles and we started to just sit around with some guitars and write. It’s as simple as that. The beginning was very uncluttered, very unspecific, very kinda “let’s just write some tunes,” you know.“

In short order, the collaboration expanded to include original producer Bob Marlette and the band began composing their debut record, Voyeurs, in earnest. A true stylistic departure for Halford into the world of industrial music, it would be their only album.

The story goes like this: Finding himself in New Orleans for Mardi Gras one year, Halford came across Nine Inch Nails mastermind and Nothing Records head honcho Trent Reznor’s residence and decided to knock on the door. Producer and former Skinny Puppy miscreant Dave Ogilvie answered and invited him inside.

There, he met Reznor and the men struck up a fast friendship. Halford left Reznor a tape of some material from Voyeur and went his merry way. Several months later, Trent called Rob at home and offered him a record deal with Nothing.

Upon finding out about another band name Gimp, the group quickly changed their name to 2wo. Although the Voyeur recording was past the demo stage, Reznor demanded that the current tracks be re-engineered by himself and Ogilvie. Being fans of their work, the band reluctantly agreed.

The result was an exercise in standard industrial metal fare, albeit anchored by Halford’s peerless vocal skills. Voyeurs received mixed reviews while confusing Judas Priest and Fight fans everywhere.

Needless to say, it did not sell well. 2wo called it quits after a headline tour, with John 5 joining Marilyn Manson and Rob Halford starting his next project, Halford, before rejoining Judas Priest a few years later. 

Fortunately, 2wo did leave a lasting mark on the world with their lone video for the track “I Am a Pig.” Directed by porn maverick Chi Chi LaRue, the deeply NSFW video is a celebration of shame-free kink. “I Am a Pig” features pornographic performers of all genders and sexual persuasions and is about as close to a fetish party as you are likely to get without actually going to one. It is a beautifully composed piece of visual art if there ever was one.

In 2002, Halford released the original 2wo recordings via his website. This version, which he describes as “tougher and edgier,” has become a bit of a cult classic in industrial metal circles and among Rob Halford fans in general.

Mixed reactions to the music aside, the campaign surrounding Voyeurs is of pivotal historic importance in metal. It was during an interview with Mtv to promote the album that Halford, completely unscripted and as vulnerable as a human being can be, came out as a gay man to several million people all at once. It doesn’t get more vital, important, and beautiful than that.